New-era call to restore business confidence | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 01, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 01, 2009

New-era call to restore business confidence

Jubilant people cheer after a landslide victory by the Awami League and its allies in Monday's elections. For the new government, building confidence among businesspeople will be a major task. Photo: Shawkat Jamil

Bringing back investors' confidence and maintaining stability in the current economic climate will be the key challenges for political leaders in 2009, said top bankers in the country.
“What we would really like to see is a consensus on a conducive and an enabling business environment from the two main protagonists in the political arena,” said Muhammad A Rumee Ali, chairman of BRAC Bank and a former deputy governor of the central bank.
“This is what the country needs and expects, and should happen,” Rumee Ali said.
Bangladesh has been facing a fading business confidence since the last quarter of 2006 when politics started getting confrontational centring the national elections then scheduled for January 2007. Investors were unwilling to pour money in an interim situation that lasted long for two years.
Besides these homegrown causes, global economic crisis has added to the woes starting from the middle of 2008, bankers said.
“If we find a conducive post-election business environment, we will see investors are returning. However, the global economic slowdown will have an impact on foreign investment inflows,” Rumee Ali said.
According to bankers, people in general are hard working and they want development. But the main hurdle is political instability. They said political leaders need to be patient to play their respective role.
They stressed that economy should get the highest priority by the political leaders.
“Politicians have to take care of the issues that may harm economic activities,” said Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank.
Bangladesh has been growing at an at least 6 percent rate for the past four years despite political confrontation, especially between the two main parties -- Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Even the global economic meltdown could not affect the resilient Bangladesh's economy.
Banks, particularly the private ones, are playing a key role in the economic development of the country.
Bangladesh Bank data show the amount of industrial term loan disbursement by banks and financial institutions stood at Tk 20,150 crore, many-fold higher than the amount of Tk 740 crore raised by new capital issues through private placements and public offerings in the capital market in 2007-08. This indicates the overwhelming preference of bank finance in industrial investment funding.
Bangladesh has more potential to grow if the politicians play their respective role, bankers said.
Investors always want stability for the return of their money, said Syed Abu Naser Bukhtear Ahmed, chief executive officer of state-owned Agrani Bank.
Shahjahan Bhuiyan, managing director of United Commercial Bank, said now the politicians should come up with generosity to take the economy forward.
“Time has come to change the attitude of the politicians,” said Nurul Amin, managing director of National Credit and Commerce Bank. “Politicians have to feel the pulse of the people and the businesses.”
Rumee Ali said the country is facing a challenging global economic scenario and the economy needs and deserves a minimum commitment from the entire political spectrum.

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